U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Governor Dan McKee today joined with child care providers from the Meeting Street School and Rhode Island child care advocates to rally support for comprehensive federal child care legislation that would boost Rhode Island’s investment in child care affordability, access, and workforce retention.
“Increasing access to affordable child care would help keep the youngest Rhode Islanders safe and on track for success while strengthening our economy and workforce,” said Senator Whitehouse. “I’m fighting down in Washington to pass sweeping investments in child care so providers in Rhode Island have the funding they need to attract and retain top-notch early educators while lowering costs for families.”
“Here in Rhode Island, we have prioritized investing in early childhood education through the investments we are making in our FY24 budget proposal, and by working with our partners at the federal level, to give children every opportunity to succeed, while at the same time meeting the needs of their families,” Governor Dan McKee said. “I thank Senator Whitehouse for his leadership in co-sponsoring these pieces of vital legislation for our earliest learners.”
Years of underinvestment in high-quality child care can hold back Rhode Island families and hinder workforce participation. Rhode Island families are spending up to 27 percent of their income on child care, as average child care costs can reach more than $10,000 per year per child under four years old. Care for infants is even more expensive, and long waiting lists for child care centers are common across the state. And while costs are rising for families, child care providers often make low wages, leading to challenges with staff recruitment, retention, and quality.
“Childcare is not simply an investment in our children and their future, it’s an economic development issue. Without access to high-quality, affordable childcare, parents – who represent 40% of the U.S. adult population – are removed from the workforce. Childcare accessibility is inextricably linked to the hiring woes facing all sectors of the economy – at a local, state and federal level,” said John M. Kelly, President of Meeting Street.
“Our working families rely on dependable, high-quality and affordable childcare to continue working and providing for their young families,” said Lisa Hildebrand, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children and Steering Committee Member of the RIght from the Start Campaign. “Prioritizing long-term solutions including resources to attract and retain skilled early educators to the ongoing childcare crisis is critical to the continued success of our communities.”
The RIght from the Start Campaign is a group of Rhode Island organizations that advocate for policies that benefit early childhood education, providers, and families. The RIght from the Start Campaign’s Steering Committee includes: Beautiful Beginnings Childcare Center, Economic Progress Institute, Latino Policy Institute, Parents Leading for Educational Equity, Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health, Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children, Rhode Island Head Start Association, and Rhode Island KIDS COUNT.
To help solve the growing child care crisis, Whitehouse is helping lead the charge to boost federal investment in our nation’s child care system. Whitehouse is an original cosponsor of the bipartisan Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act to help address the national shortage of affordable, quality child care by providing competitive grants to states to train child care workers and build or renovate child care facilities.
Whitehouse is also an original cosponsor of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) Child Care for Every Community Act, which would create a universal childcare network of federally-supported, locally-administered childcare options. The comprehensive bill would ensure that half of families nationwide pay no more than $10 a day—with no family paying more than 7 percent of their income on childcare—while boosting wages and benefits for workers.
In the government appropriations measure that was passed into law late last year, Whitehouse voted to secure over $8 billion to support child care nationwide through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (a 31 percent boost over last year), and nearly $12 billion for Head Start, a program that promotes school readiness for children from low-income families (a 9 percent year-over-year increase). The Senator also pushed hard to renew the expanded Child Tax Credit in the FY2023 omnibus bill, only for its inclusion to be blocked by Senate Republicans.
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